Adam Hamilton, pastor of the multi-campus Church of the Resurrection, has a warning for the United Methodist Church. He predicts the denomination could lose between 3,400 and 7,500 congregations next year because of its ongoing debate about homosexuality.
“A year from now, we will not be the same church that we are today,” Hamilton said at the denomination’s annual leadership institute in late September. A key issue at the event was the future of the UMC in light of its ongoing debate over its official opposition to homosexuality, gay marriage and the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals.
Hamilton estimates that between 3,400 and 6,800 congregations will leave the UMC in protest to join a new theologically conservative denomination, while another 300 to 1,000 churches will decide that the denomination is not inclusive enough.
READ: Adam Hamilton at center of United Methodist Bible controversy
“That will leave, though, I think, 27,000 to 28,000 United Methodist churches,” he said. “And the question is, what will we become?”
Hamilton, who opposes the current UMC Book of Discipline language on homosexuality, said he believes the book will be changed next year. “We are going to remove from the Book of Discipline the language that is harmful to human beings,” he said.
Hamilton urged cooperation and unity among conservatives, progressives and centrists in the UMC.
“If we’re conservative without being liberal, we’re stuck,” he said. “And if we’re liberal without being conservative, we’re unmoored. At Church of the Resurrection, we have Republicans and Democrats. We have the same people running for office against each other, and they’re members of the same congregation. There’s something beautiful about that.”
Earlier this year, the denomination held a special session of general conference in which delegates voted for a measure called the Traditional Plan, which affirmed its position against homosexuality, gay marriage and the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals while promising stricter enforcement
Although Hamilton and others have denounced the Traditional Plan, others, including Pastor Talbot Davis of Good Shepherd UMC in Charlotte, support it.
“I am delighted that the Special General Conference of the United Methodist Church adopted the Traditional Plan, as we believe in the beautiful picture of celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in heterosexual marriage that is woven throughout the pages of Scripture, as well as church teaching since its inception,” Davis said.
-Alan Goforth | Metro Voice